East End kids are in dire need of jobs, suffering from depression and are facing highly inadequate mental health services, according to a new report prepared by a consortium of youth workers on the East End.
The full draft report, which is to be submitted to Suffolk County next week in a push for more youth services on the East End, is online here.
The Suffolk County East End Youth Board held a forum on the report Thursday evening at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders.
Southampton Youth Bureau Director Nancy Lynott presented the findings and recommendations, which include asking the Suffolk County Office of Mental Health establish a centrally located behavioral health clinic (perhaps in Flanders), which can provide mobile mental health services throughout the East End, and a centrally located satellite employment center in Riverhead, which would also have a mobile unit. The report also calls for expanding public transportation services for youth.
Ms. Lynott shared statistics that show that 76 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 on the East End are unemployed.
“There are very few jobs that support you in life and there is really not a lot offered from the Department of Labor here,” she said.
She added that seven of the top 15 communities of people without health insurance on all of Long Island are on the East End. Of the ten most economically distressed communities in Suffolk County, she said, six are on the East End.
Ms. Lynott added that statistics show that “our kids are drinking and drugging more than most kids in the nation,” and surveys of kids in the Riverhead and Southampton school districts showed kids had highly elevated levels of depression, suicidal thoughts and reports of self-injury.
“The winter doldrums can really be doldrums when you’re young on the East End,” she said.
These findings didn’t come as a surprise to the youth advocates in the room.
Helen Atkinson-Barnes of The Retreat pointed out that she’s seen statistics that show 10 percent of teens here have experienced physical abuse, while another 10 percent have experienced sexual abuse. She offered to share The Retreat’s statistics with the county.
“People don’t recognize what series issues these are,” she said.
Laura Smith of the North Fork Alliance suggested that youth advocates pair with the business community to provide transportation services for kids. She added that she’d like County Executive Steve Bellone’s plan to have an agricultural college near the East End to come to fruition.
Sergeant Kerry Laube of the Westhampton Beach Village Police Department said part of the problem facing young people today is that tradespeople aren’t taking on apprentices, and construction jobs are being done by Hispanic immigrants. He said trade schools are a must for East End kids.
Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender pointed out that there is very little union labor on the East End, while most good jobs are provided by local government.
Counselor Andrea Nydegger of Mattituck High School said she deals with at least five referrals for mental health services each week for kids who are suicidal, hurting themselves or have eating disorders.
She said those kids often have to go on waiting lists at mental health centers, unless they actually harm themselves and are admitted to a mental hospital, after which they are able to receive ongoing care.
“You have to overdose to be seen at local facilities,” she said. “It seems backwards. So many kids fall through the cracks. Once they’re 18, we can’t force them to get treatment.”
Other attendees pointed out that a recent $150,000 appropriation for mental health services in the New York State budget will only be used far out east on the South Fork, while youth on the entire East End are facing mental health difficulties.
East Hampton has suffered recent teen suicides that have shaken their community, and just last week faced another death, this time of a young man in his early 20s in Montauk.
Southold Town Youth Services Director Phillip Beltz pointed out that the North Fork was without representation in the state assembly last year after former Assemblyman Dan Losquadro left his post to become Brookhaven Highway Superintendent.
“We really got screwed,” he said.
Kim Jones from the East Hampton Anti-Bias Task Force pointed out that, in East Hampton, few stores hire local kids to work, and parents are providing role models for potential budding alcoholics by drinking themselves and covering for their children when they hold beach parties.
“We don’t have mom and pop stores,” she said. “I went to the stores and there was not one employee from East Hampton. They’re not looking to hire our students. That’s our problem, not theirs.”
Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy pointed out that the Riverhead School has a very pro-active anti-drinking and drug program in the middle school, but “once children go home, if their parents are drinking, what’s that going to tell them? It’s wiping out everything we’re working on.”
Mr. Dunleavy, a former police officer, added that if money is spent on helping kids when they’re young, it helps keep them out of trouble with the law, saving money in the long run.
Ms. Lynott agreed.
“The smart investment is prevention,” she said.